Marvel’s move into streaming with this year’s “WandaVision” and “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” conclusively demonstrated two things: that they didn’t skimp on the music budgets, and that theme songs could generate as much buzz as the unfolding mysteries surrounding the characters.
Both series turned to Marvel vets for their lavish scores: Christophe Beck (the “Ant-Man” movies) for “WandaVision” and Henry Jackman (two “Captain America” films) for “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.” And both demanded music with wide stylistic ranges, from lighthearted sitcom tropes to darker orchestral colors for terrorists and assorted bad guys.
Yet it was the songs for “WandaVision” that attracted the most attention. All six, by Oscar-winning “Frozen” songwriters Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, lampooned different eras of TV themes: “A Newlywed Couple” (a la “Dick Van Dyke Show”), “WandaVision!” (“Bewitched”), “We Got Something Cooking” (“The Partridge Family”), “Making It Up as We Go Along” (“Growing Pains”), “Let’s Keep It Going” (“Malcolm in the Middle”) and the insanely popular “Agatha All Along” (a “Munsters”-“Addams Family” takeoff).
“We are the rerun generation,” laughs Anderson-Lopez, recalling childhood afternoon viewings of “The Brady Bunch” and “Gilligan’s Island.” Adds Lopez: “We got a chance to go through our own sitcom boot camp and watch a zillion opening sequences, [then] writing a number of minute-long songs that had to have a little structure and set a tone.”
Beck helped define Wanda’s character with the help of a 75-piece Vienna orchestra. “She is not a television show hero,” he points out. “She’s a witch. She’s got a lot of darkness in her, and her struggle is a major theme in this series. I feel like this score is my most strongly thematic work to date.”
For “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” Jackman’s challenge was not only incorporating motifs he’d already written for the “Winter Soldier” and “Civil War” movies but also expanding the music of Sam Wilson (pictured), who eventually becomes the new Captain America.
“I wanted to represent all the facets of Sam Wilson in his musical DNA,” says Jackman. “Louisiana Hero,” Jackman’s theme for the Falcon, references his bayou roots with bluesy guitar and organ figures, “then halfway through the horns come in and the heroic feeling starts to take over,” he says. “Now we have an African American Captain America, so there should be no diminution in the classical heroism; by the same token, the music should also describe how he comes to the shield.” A 53-musician Berlin ensemble performed the score.